MAGISTRATES have fined a Stafford company £24,000 after one of its employees suffered a serious arm injury in an 'easily preventable' accident.
Paul Turney, a supervisor at CEP Ceilings Ltd, was cleaning the glue from a laminating machine at the firm's factory in Verulam Road, Stafford, when his arm was caught in the gears of the machine, Stafford magistrates heard.
Mr Turney lost a 'chunk' of flesh from his arm in the accident on January 21 last year, Health and safety Executive inspector Wayne Owen told the court.
The 61-year-old, from Stafford, had needed a skin graft and had been left with permanent scarring and loss of feeling at the site of the injury.
Mr Owen said the firm, which made ceiling and wall panels, had not carried out a risk assessment or devised a safe operating procedure for using and cleaning the machine.
Employees had been left to devise their own method, which involved using an adapted length of metal pipe to scrape hardened glue from the moving rollers, after removing a safety guard.
There was 'little or no' training and instruction available, and safety inspections at the factory were done on an 'ad hoc' basis, not using a regular schedule.
Mr Own said the firm had pleaded guilty to two charges under health and safety legislation at the earliest opportunity, and had since carried out a series of safety improvements.
"But it must be said that all these measures were practicable before the accident," he added.
"The accident was easily preventable, had the company considered the risks."
James Ageros, defending, apologised on behalf of the firm's managing director Kevin Gale and director Stephen Ross, who both attended the hearing.
Mr Ageros said the firm had been in business for nearly 50 years and the accident was an 'isolated event' in a generally good safety record.
"Mr Turney did suffer a serious injury, but he was able to return to work fairly shortly afterwards and it has not affected his ability to work," he said.
"He has made a civil claim, which has not yet been fully settled. But liability has been admitted and Mr Turney will be properly compensated for the injury."
Since the accident, CEP Ceilings had devised a completely different method for cleaning the machine, which did not involve removing any safety guards, he added. The firm had co-operated with the HSE inquiry and had already paid the inquiry costs of £8,000.
Magistrates fined the firm £12,000 on each of two charges under the Health and Safety Act 1974 and Health and Safety Regulations 1999.
The firm was also ordered to pay £1,194 costs and a £12o victim surcharge.